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Cclvi JOUBNAL OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
On the Alleged Introduction of Syphilis from the New World. Also
some notes on the Local and Imported Diseases into America. By
Wm. Bollaebt, F.A.S.L., Cor. Mem. Univ. Chile; of the
Amer. Ethno. Soc. ; of the Ethno. Soc, London, &c.
In 1825, when at Buenos Ayres, and observing that both gonorrhoea
or blennorrhagia, and syphilis * were very common among the white
and mixed portion of the population, I made inquiries as to whether
these diseases were met with among the Indians of that country. I
was informed, as far as was known on this point, the Indians were free
In the autumn of the same year I was weather-bound in Nassau
Bay, just behind Cape Horn. The Indians there were nearly naked,
a few only having a little piece of seal-skin over the shoulders ; and
although there were signs that foreign shipping (as sealers and whal-
ers) had been thereabouts, I saw no indication of cither disease.
The latter end of the year I arrived at the port of Valparaiso, where
there are certain localities called " Tops," the residence of the prosti-
tute population, frequented by sailors of all nations, and there could
be no doubt that syphilis and gonorrhoea were rife. I then travelled
about the central portion of Chile, but did not learn that the Peons,
or labouring population (Mestizos) were afflicted with either disease.
For some years I resided in Peru, and visited Bolivia, but heard of no
cases amongst those Indians, who lived distant from the whites,
mestizos, or mulattos. However, among the whites and mixed breeds
the diseases were very common.
In coming from Peru to Chile by land, along the shores of the
desert of Atacama in 1829-30, I met some Indian families known as
Changos ; I did not notice the disease amongst them. I went then
among the Araucano Indians, and neither saw nor heard that they were
In 1831, I was for some weeks in the Straits of Magellan, and had
good opportunities of examining both sexes, when I observed what
appeared to me to be syphilitic sores (chancres) among some of the
women, and gonorrhoea among some of the men. I had no doubt
that they had contracted these diseases from the crews of sealers and
whalers who visited this portion of the continent ; and it was a well
known fact that Indian women had often been stolen away by 3aid
* A medical friend gives me the following. " The true etymology of many of
the words used in describing some of the forms of venereal disease is somewhat
obscure, e.g. the origin of the word syphilis is uncertain ; but I venture to sug-
gest, under correction, that it might be derived from the Greek word auSap — a
slough, or cast-off skin, also the wrinkled skin of an old man (or from <n<p\os, un-
clean). If this be so, it points to the constitutional nature of the malady. Chancre
is from the French, which in turn is from the Greek KarKipot, or cancer, alluding
to the primary and external disease. Blennorrhagia is from fiKtvva, mucus, and
pcai, to flow. Gonorrhoea is from 70^, semen, and ptu, to flow, and I should
Ruspect has, in its pure sense, a reference to gleet, in the chronic form of the
BOLLAEET ON THE INTRODUCTION OF SYPHILIS. Cclvii
whalers and sealers, kept on board for a time, when doubtless the dis-
eases had been communicated to them by Europeans.
In 1840-2, when in Texas, I visited many tribes of Indians of that
country, as well as remnants of tribes which had fled from the
United States, but observed neither disease among them. In 1854-5
I was again in South America, and neither saw nor heard of the dis-
ease among the pure Indians. Whilst amongst the white people and
mixed breeds, particularly in the cities and larger towns, syphilis and
gonorrhoea were very common.
So far my own experience as regards South and a portion of North
I will now briefly allude to some historical accounts on this subject,
particularly as regards the Old World. In the Aphorisms of Hippo-
crates, 400 B.C., and in the Sentences of Celsus, 400 years after
Hippocrates, as found in Sprengell's translations, in 1708. When
Sprengell alludes to his own added Aphorisms " On the French dis-
ease," he says, it was just known to former more temperate ages,
and, in a note, how far it was known in former ages, he refers to
Ecclesiasticus, c. 19, v. 2, 3. Hippocrates, in. ; Epidemics, iii., 41,
74, 59, and i. Be Morbus Mulierum, 127. Galen, lib. iv. ; Meth. c. 5,
and lib. i. De Genet:, c. 23 ; lib. iii. Epidemics, sec. 3, com. 25. Pliny
His. Nat., lib. 26, c. i. Aviceti, lib. 2. Valesius ; Rhodius ; Vigo-
nius, Lib. de Morb. Gall., c. &c. And that it does not, according to
the vulgar opinion, derive its origin from Naples, France, East or
West Indies. Josephus, c. xi., p. 108, says, when on the subject of
purification, that Moses ordered those who had gonorrhoea should not
come into the city.
We hear of syphilis, or that it began to be very prevalent or made
public in Europe in the latter years of the fifteenth century. The idea
has been thrown out in our own time that it might have been long
previously known in a milder form. It is said there was ground for
believing that syphilis was brought into western Europe on the return
of the crusaders. There were seven crusades to the Holy Land from
1099 to the reign of Edward I, about 1272.
In Dr. Simpson's valuable Memoir regarding the appearance of syphi-
lis in Scotland, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (see Trans. Epi-
demiological Soc. London, 1862) he alludes to Peter Pinctor's assertion
that syphilis was well known in 1483. Now, if this were so, added to
what we know about a contagious disease known in very early times as
the Morbus Mulierum, then the bringing of the disease from America
on the return of Columbus in his first voyage, which was in March,
1493, just ten years after the period mentioned by Peter Pinctor, must
I think be given up by those who have merely supposed that syphilis
was originally brought from the New World by the Spanish dis-
Fulgosi, in his Griiner's Aphrodisiacus, p. 115, gives 1492 as the
date of its general appearance in Europe, which is a year before the
discovery of the New World. It was, about 1493, generally thought
that the diseases had sprung up spontaneously and endemically in
Italy, France, and Spain. If, however, in 1494-5, it was distinctly
VOL. II. — no. vi. s
Cclviii JOURNAL OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
recognised in Italy during the invasion of that country by Charles VIII
of France, which was scarcely two years after Columbus returned
from his first voyage from the West Indies. Chavles VIII returned to
France in May, 1495, and syphilis, it is mentioned, was generally dis-
seminated on the march home by his troops, composed of his own
people, Swiss, German, and Flemish auxiliaries.
I will now refer to living's Life of Columbus, composed from the
very best materials. At vol. 1, p. 103, when describing the Indians
of Hispanola in his first voyage, Columbus says, " they are contented
with such simple diet, whereby health is preserved and disease avoided."
Columbus brought six Indians with him to Europe, where he arrived
in March, 1493, but. nothing is mentioned as to their being in any way
diseased. He left Spain on his second voyage in September, 1493,
arriving at the fort of Navidad, where he had left a small party of
Spaniards with orders to be kind to the Indians and ingratiate them-
selves with them. The reverse took place ; many of the Spaniards
were of the lowest sort and of most sensual character. They stole
away Indian women, forcing them to live with them in the fort ; this
so irritated the Indians that the fort was besieged and attacked, and
all the Spaniards were most probably got rid of.*
Columbus abandoned this locality and proceeded to found the city
of Isabella, when his followers suffered much from the climate and
fevers ; this was in March, 1494, for which period Irving observes
that many Spaniards suffered also under the torments of a disease
hitherto unknown to them, the scourge as toas supposed of their licen-
tious intercourse with the Indian females ; but the origin of which,
whether American or European, has been a subject of great dispute."
Here we have but a sttpposilion, and my firm impression is, that had
either of the diseases been known to the Indians, the Spaniards, who
were very good chroniclers, would have given some details. We now
come to the latter part of 1494, when Pedro Margarite and others
ran away from Isabella to Spain. " Some ascribed his abrupt de-
parture to the fear of a severe military investigation of his conduct ;
* I will here advert to a singular story, told me lately by Herr , consul for
a foreign power to Mexico, as connected with a friend of his, who died at Orizaba.
His friend had exposed himself to contagion with a Quarterona. A few hours
afterwards the member began to swell, causing excruciating pain ; at the ex-
tremity there was a crown or ruff of various colours. Herr went for a doctor,
who, on examining the patient, said that he must have been with the said Quarte-
rona, who had communicated the same to three or four others, and they had died ;
that it was his opinion that his present patient would share the same fate — the
individual did die in a few days. The Quarterona was arrested and sent to a
house of incurables ; as to her fate there is no information. Herr informed
me that this class of venereal is called the crUtalina, or crystallised syphilis ;
that a few similar cases bad occurred in the city of Mexico ; and that something
of tho sort had formerly been known in Cadiz. He also gave me the following
as the supposed origin of this cristalina. In 1493, Columbus, ere he left the
West Indies to bring to Europe tho news of his discovery of the New World,
erected tho fort of Navidad in Hispanola, leaving some of his followers there.
Ou his return from Spain, he found that the whole of them had been killed or
had died. It is said that some of them were affected with syphilis brought from
Spain, and gave the disease to the Indian women with whom they had lived, and
from these sprung the cristalina, which I think to be very doubtful.
BOLLAERT ON THE INTRODUCTION OF SYPHILIS. CcllX
others to his having, in the course of his licentious amours, con-
tracted a malady at that time new and unknown (?), and which he
attributed to the climate, and hoped to cure it by medical assistance
Let us suppose that Margarite was afflicted with syphilis, there is
no evidence that he had contracted it from the Indian female as a
disease natural to the country. If he took the disease from an In-
dian woman, she had, in all probability, been inoculated by a diseased
Spaniard ; but it is far more probable, if he had syphilis, that he had
contracted it in Europe, or from some of his own countrywomen in
We come now to 1497, when an edict was issued about syphilis at
Aberdeen as a disease that came out of France and other strange
parts. It was also called the sickness of Naples, the gor, gore, and
grangore, a contagious plague afflicting male and female. The terms
gore and grangore are of French origin, as — verole, small pox, grande
verole, large pox or syphilis.*
In 1500 we find syphilis called in Scotland pokes and Spanyie
pockis ; but it was generally denominated the French disease. Ital-
ians, Germans, and English spoke of it as the disease of Naples. The
Dutch, Flemings, Portuguese, and Moors as the Spanish malady;
and the Spaniards to this day call it Galico or French disease ; but we
never hear it quoted as the American disease.
Gonorrhoea was in full vigour in London in 1430, and known as
clap or brenning, and its existence spoken of a century earlier, in
the time of Richard II.
There can be no doubt that syphilis existed extensively at Naples,
and was brought into Western Europe with the return of Charles VIII
from that country in May 1495. I may here observe that when Co-
lumbus returned to Europe from the New World in May 1493, there
is no allusion at that date that syphilis was brought from America.
When Sir. R. Alcock was asked by a friend of mine as to the exist-
ence of syphilis in Japan, he said it was known as the Portuguese
disease, and was common there.
However, as regards the New World, history gives no evidence as
to the disease having been brought from there, and the non-existence
of both of the diseases amongst those Indians at the present time re-
moved from proximity to the whites and mixed breeds is, to me, a
still more convincing proof that syphilis, as it has been well known before
and since the end of the 15th century, is not of New World origin.
Benzoni, who was very early in the West Indies and in Peru with
Pizarro, speaks of the Morbus Gallicus, or French disease. Solaz-
zano, Monarqtiia Indiana, lib. i, c. 4, p. 24, says it is most doubtful
and uncertain that the venereal disease was introduced from the Old
• See Des Divinites Generatrices ou du culte du Phallus, par J. A. D„ Paris,
1805, p. 291. " On noramait au 15eme siecle, les courtisanes elegantes, gores
(gore, a sow), gaures ou gaurieres, et les robes decoltees (low-bodied dresses),
robes a la grante gore ; c'est pourquoi un predicateur celebre par ses buffooneries,
frere Maillard, s'ecrie souvent contre les bourgeoises qui portent des robes a la
Cclx JOURNAL OF THE ANTHKOPOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
World into the New. He calls syphilis " the French or Bubatic."
Frezier in 1719-14, in alluding to the hospitals in Lima, mentions San
Lazaro for the cure of lepers and such as have venereal distemper.
About 1742, the Ulloas, who were very close observers, being at
Lima, thus allude to syphilis : " The venereal disease is equally com-
mon in Peru, as in those countries we have already mentioned" (they
had just come from New Granada and Quito) ; " it is, indeed, general
in all that part of America ; and but little attention is given to it until
arrived to a great height, the general custom in all those parts." As
to the Indians, he says, i, p. 420 : " Though the venereal disease is so
common in the country (amongst the Spauiards and mixed breeds), it
is seldom known among them (the Indians), and, when observed, has
been communicated by the whites or Mestizoes."
Describing Quito, the Ulloas say: "The venereal disease is here
so common, that few persons are free from it ; and many are afflicted
with it without any of its external symptoms. Even little children,
incapable by their age of having contracted it actively, have been
known to have been attacked in the same manner by it as persons
who have acquired it by their debauchery. Accordingly, there is no
reason for caution in concealing this distemper, its commonness
effacing the disgrace that in other countries attends it. The principal
cause of its prevalence is negligence in the cure. Few are salivated
for it, or will undergo the trouble of a radical cure."
When first in South America, I was astonished to hear females say
(sometimes rather in confidence) of any of their male acquaintances
who complained of being unwell, there being no visible sign of illness —
" pues es galiquente, y quizas de sus padres", he has been syphilised,
perhaps, from his parents.
Velasco, in his excellent Historia de Quito, i, 185, says, when speak-
ing of the Indians of that country, " Amongst other diseases, they are
free from venereal, which is falsely attributed to them, but brought
to the country by the Europeans."
Speaking of the Creeks and Cherokees in the United States, Bar-
tram, who wrote in 1790 (Amer. Ethno. Soc. Trans., 43, 1853), ob-
serves that they have the venereal in some of its stages. In some
places it is scarcely known, and in none rises to that virulency which
we call small-pox, unless sometimes amongst the white traders, who
themselves say, as well as the Indians, that it might be eradicated if
the white traders did not carry it with them to the natives when they
return with their merchandize ; these contract the disorder before
they set off, and it generally becomes virulent by the time they arrive,
when they apply to the Indian doctors to get themselves cured. " I
am inclined," says Bartram, " to believe that this disease originated
in America (?) from the variety of remedies found among the Indians,
all of which are vegetable. I have imagined that the disease is more
prevalent as well as more malignant among the northern tribes, be-
cause of their closer proximity to the whites. The vegetables are,
various species of iris, croton, or styllingra or the yaw-weed, smilax,
bignonia, and lobelia syphilitica."
In Wilcocke's Buenos Ayres, p. 412: "The syphilitic disease,
BOLLAERT ON THE INTRODUCTION OF SYPHILIS. Cclxi
though very common amongst the inhabitants of the Spanish race, is
seldom known among the Indians, and then only when communicated
by the foreigner."
Stevenson, in his Travels in South America, i, 405, remarks :
" With what certainty the origin of syphilis has been traced to Ame-
rica, I know not ; but the wild tribes of Arauco (Chile), Archidona
and the Napo (Peru), those of Darien (New Granada), and several
others, as well as those who live in small settlements among the
Spaniards, are totally unacquainted with it; and, although I have
been particularly inquisitive on this head, I never could hear of a
solitary instance of the disease, except in large towns and cities, and
then it was limited to a certain class (prostitutes), where it was likely
to be most prevalent."
I now come to a recent writer on subjects connected with the New
World, who has again brought the subject of the existence of syphilis
in America to our notice, and that it existed there at an ancient date.
In vol. i, p. 181, Hist, cles Nations Civilisies du Mexique, par l'Abbe
B. de Bourbourg, in detailing the legend of the deification of Nana-
huatl, he says : " He is there with the others, but he is sick, he suf-
fers from a terrible and incurable disease ; there is nothing now to
attach him to life, the joys of which he has drained ... he throws
himself into the flames, and is instantly burnt to ashes." In a note
it is stated, " that the disease above mentioned was the American
syphilis, which is somewhat different from that of Europe. Original
and numerous documents, in the languages of those countries, have
proved to us convincingly the existence of this disease in America
before its discovery by Columbus."
Upon so important a subject, I should have thought that reference
would have been made to these " original and numerous documents";
for without them, that the sickness of Nanahuatl was the " American
syphilis", may be very much questioned.
At p. 182 of the same work, the abbe says: "Strange aberration
of the human mind ! That which was most revolting concerning this
deity, the most revolting of matter, to be clothed so mysteriously ; the
symbols of grandeur and majesty, and the words which express the
most infectious corruption of the human body, has even to this day,
among a multitude of Indian nations, an analogous state, as that of
the most elevated power." This is a most extraordinary paragraph.
Had it had to do with phallic worship, we might have understood
the affair. However, in a note, a far more extraordinary position
of things appears ; it is as follows : " In all the Spanish translations
of the history of Nanahuatl, he is continually called by the name of
' Buboso'," which the abbe translates " syphilitic". This struck me
as rather strange, and I have investigated what I believe to be the true
meaning of the word buboso in this case; namely, that it merely
comes from the Spanish word buba, a pustule, and that buboso has
been applied to the syphilitic swellings in the glands known as buboes,
but that this bubo of the aboriginal Mexican Indian was an ordinary
pustule or tumour, and not syphilis. The abbe proceeds, having once
persuaded himself that this buboso means syphilitic, " The word puz,
Cclxii JOURNAL OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
which signifies the foul and corrupted matter of this disease, in the
tzendal and in the otzile, becomes a verb to signify the sacrifice, and
especially that of human victims ; it means, also, to enchant, to per-
form miracles, or prodigies. Puz-naiocal, means enchanter, the great
and marvellous man, etc. Galel-ahpop is a princely title, and galel-
ya is a syphilitic. Xogahuah means princess, and lanlel yoghuah
literally means, she made herself a princess, as well as ' exit ex ea
syphilis'. Tepeu means great syphilis, or he who has a great deal of
it ; gawal tepegal, divine, or the greatest majesty." After this rather
hyper-philological dissertation — to me of very little value — the abbe
proceeds : " Or is it, that the Spanish ecclesiastics in their catechism,
being ignorant of the origin of these words, employed them to ex-
press the most sacred things of our religion, in the Quichee and
Cakchiquel ?" It would take a volume to write all on such matters,
so multiplied and varied are they. "We have to apologise to our
readers for this strange note ; but the circumstances have appeared so
curious to us, that we have thought it our duty to lay it before the
eyes of the learned.*
In a paper by Professor Owen to the British Association, on the
Andamans or Mincopies, long isolated from any other people, Dr. Jebb
said : " I never met with any one of them affected with gonorrhoea,
syphilis, intermittent fever, itch, piles, small-pox, goitre, or other
In 1831, I became acquainted with Mr. Beale, a surgeon, who sub-
sequently wrote the History of the Sperm Whale. At p. 375 of that
work, he says, speaking of Tahiti : " But if Mars had afflicted them
so sorely, Venus herself had been less kind than her consort ; their
intercourse with foreigners had left their diseases, that were depopu-
lating the islands; men, women, and even little children in arms,
were suffering from this worst of Pandora's gifts, for the cure or
alleviation of which they possessed neither knowledge nor means."
At the period I speak of, I had long communications with him on the
subject of the depopulation of many of the islands in the South Seas ;
* I have lately had the subject of phallic worship in the New World brought
to my notiee. My impression had been that it was unknown to the Bed Man.
However, in a work entitled " Des Divinites Generatrices ou du culte du Phallus",
already alluded to, it is mentioned as existing, " dans quelques parties de l'Ame-
rique. Lorsque les Espagnoles firent la decouverte de cette partie du monde, ils
trouverent oe culte etabli chez les Mexicaines." I find that this information is
obtained from a work written by a gentleman who was with Cortes, who says :
" In certain countries, particularly at Fanuco, on the northern coast of Mexico,
the Phallus is worshipped (il membro che portano fra la gambe), and they keep
in their temples."
The Abbe B. de Bourbourg supposes the Phallic worship to have existed
among the Allighewas, Algonquins, and Iroquois ; and there is good reason to
believe that something connected with this worship has lately been observed
among the Mandans. As far as I have at present examined this matter as regards
South America, I have not as yet made out the existence of this worship there.
Some of the older Spanish writers on the New World speak occasionally of the
reported commission of unnatural crimes by the Indians, but about which the
evidence is not at all clear. I have seen a few examples of iudecent execution
in pottery from South America, but of a natural character only.
BOLLAERT ON THE INTRODUCTION OF SYPHILIS. Cclxiii
when he gave me a copy of his pamphlet on the matter, in which he
positively states that the diseases had been communicated to the
islanders by the whalers and sealers ; and he proposed to the philan-
thropists of his day to send to the said islands a number of young
medical men to do their best to cure or arrest these dreadful scourges ;
that these were the proper sort of men to improve the natives; that
they (the surgeons) would explore the islands, make collections of
natural history, to be sent home to our museums, and in this way
repay in some measure the expense incurred. Mr. Beale's appeal
was in vain. Missionaries only have been sent from England and the
United States to the " heathen", but no medical men to cure the
loathsome diseases contracted from the white man.
As a medical curiosity in connection with this subject, I translate
from the Mercurio Peruano, No. 323, 6th February, 1794, published
in Lima. It is headed, " Publication of a Receipt by Royal Order,
with a Note by the Seiior Oidor." '* In publishing this receipt, we
should give our most cordial and reverent gratitude to the King of
Spain our Lord, who is not unmindful, amongst his heavy troubles,
of having a care for the health of his happy and so tenderly beloved
vassals. The receipt sent will be dear to us, seeing that the various
experiments made are most satisfactory, so that the Sovereign has
ordered it to be published in his remote dominions. — Royal Order.
" Excellent Seiior, — I remit to Y. E., by order of the King, the
accompanying receipt, used by the Honorary Commissary of War,
Don Rafael Ramos, Comptroller of the Military Hospital of New
Orleans ; its advantages are well known for the cure of rheumatism,
venereal, and scorbutics, so that the faculty of surgeons under Y. E.'s
care may pay every attention to its use. God protect Y. E. — Palace,
22 July, 1793. Alange — to the Lord Viceroy of Peru.
"Instruction how to make the tincture: — Take 11 pints of good
white wine, and macerate for three days ; zarzaparrilla 3 oz. ; holy
wood 3 oz. ; zarzafras 3 oz. ; senna 4 oz. ; harmodatil 3 oz. ; tartar
emetic 4 gr. ; hearts of pino 1 oz."
" In the commencement, the tincture was only used in venereal cases,
but it is now extended to scorbutic rheumatisms, humoral fluxion of
the eyes, linfaticos oserosos in any portion of the body, to clean the
kidneys, urethra, and bladder, or the impurities therein, taking away
sand and even small calculi, useful in gout. Then venereal ulcers or
gonorrhoea, exostosis (probably nodes), and other symptoms in the
texture of the solid portions that have suffered, or have suffered
alteration or disunion, the cure is not so rapid."
When I went to South America in 1 825, a French quack medicine
called pantamagogo was the rage ; it was taken for every mortal^ dis-
ease, venereal included. I examined it, and it appeared to be a highly
drastic tincture. With the arrival of European medical men, panta-
magogo and some other quack rubbish were abandoned; still, many
American and French patent medicines are patronised.
On Local and Imported Diseases in America. — Mexico.-—
Torquemada says in lib. vii., c. 29, to one of the deities were attri-
buted diseases, as " small pox, swellings, abscesses, itch, and bad
Cclx'lV JOURNAL OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
eyes." As to small pox, there may possibly have been an indigenous
variety; but that which has much assisted to thin off the red men,
say from a hundred millions to ten or twelve millions, was the Euro-
pean. Las Casas calculated that, in the first forty years after the dis-
covery of America, twelve to fifteen millions of the natives had been
destroyed by the Spaniards, i.e., by war and its results, and disease.
As to the introduction of small-pox into the New World, it is on
record that as early as 1520 Narvaez, who joined Cortez with his
fleet, had with him a negro who had the disease It spread rapidly
in that part of Mexico, when numberless Indians fell victims. Maxi-
ixa, the chief of Tlascala, took it and died, as did also Cuitlahua, the
successor of Montezuma. Prescott observes that the small-pox at
that time " was sweeping over the land like fire over the prairies — the
natives perished in heaps, and that the small-pox was not known be-
fore the arrival of the Spaniards." As early as 1515 this disease had
begun to thin off the natives of the West Indies.
Pests, or epidemies, are spoken of by various authors as depopulat-
ing the country before and after the conquest. We know nothing of
the symptoms of the visitations before the conquest. However, to
this day, independent of the indigenous intermittent fevers in the
some localities, there are bad bilious fevers on the Pacific coast, and
yellow fevers running into black vomit on the Atlantic, particularly
about Vera Cruz.
These intermittent, bilious, and yellow fevers are traced in a nor-
therly direction along the coast of Texas into the Southern States of
North America. I took the yellow fever at New Orleans, for which
large doses of calomel were given. In Texas for intermittent fever, I
took quinine in pretty large quantities and was bled ; but to get rid
of this last fever I had to seek a change of climate.
Texas. — In 1840-2 I explored a great portion of this country. On
the coast, in the Autumn, the bilious would rapidly change into
yellow fever, carrying off its victims. A hundred miles or more in
the interior I have personally experienced bad intermittent fevers, but
farther westward, and where the land is more elevated, the country is
healthy. Indians of the interior going to the coast easily catch the
B. de Bourboug (ii. vol. of his His. du Mesciqiie, 596) says, " about
1464, Mayapan, in Yucatan, was destroyed by civil wars. After a
period of great abundance came a famine, when multitudes of animals
died and putrified ; this was succeeded by a peste or epidemic, which
commenced the depopulation of the peninsula of Yucatan. And in
vol. iii, p, 497, he speaks of Tlalocan, a sort of terrestrial paradise
for those who had died by lightning, or drowned, the lepers, the sy-
philitics, the itchy, gouty, etc. The warriors who had died on the
field of battle were taken up amongst the stars." As to the list of
diseases, they are, I conceive, of Spanish origin, and not Indian.
New Granada. — What Ulloa wrote years since, applies in a great
measure to the present time. The climate, jiarticularly of the coast,
is very hot with much rain. The complexion of the people is livid,
and the young are mostly affected by disease.
B0LLAERT ON THE INTRODUCTION OF SYPHILIS. Cclxv
The first disease is called Chapetonada (in allusion to the name of
Chapeton given to the old Spaniards) and fatal to very many Euro-
peans ; the attack lasts three or four days, when the patient rallies or
dies ; this is the local yellow fever, and when in its most malignant
state is the black vomit.
The residents are subject to leprosy, which is by some attributed
to eating large quantities of pork. Lepers are allowed to marry, and
in this way the disease is perpetuated. They are confined within cer-
tain limits, but allowed to go out begging.
The itch and tetters (a cutaneous disease) are common ; an earth
called maqumaqi is used as a remedy. There is a singular disease
called cobrilla, or little snake, it is a tumour of a bad sort. Spasms
and convulsions are common, and ofttimes fatal.
At Porto Bello in particular, foreigners fall victims to the climate.
It was a common opinion that parturition at Porto Bello was so dan-
gerous among the European women that they generally died in child-
bed ; so that when three or four months in pregnancy they were sent
to Panama. European animals were so much affected by the climate
that they scarcely bred. This Porto Bello has been and is still the
hot bed of epidemics and mortal distempers with black vomit of a
bad sort, and which made great havoc on one occasion, in 1726, to a
Quito. — Malignant spotted fevers and pleurisies are common in this
country, and when they present themselves, say in the capital, gene-
rally sweep away large numbers, indeed they are pestilential conta-
gions. The mal de vicho was considered by Jussieu as gangrene of
the rectum and not uncommon ; those who laboured under flux were
most liable to the malady. There is no canine madness in the city
The people of this country are subject to a distemper unknown in
Europe, and may be compared to the small-pox (?) which few or none
escape ; it is called peste, its symptoms are convulsions, a continual
endeavour to bite, delirium, vomiting of blood and is ofttimes fatal.
This peste is not peculiar to Quito, but has been observed in other
parts of South America. At Guayaquil, the principal port, during the
winter months, there is much intermittent fever, yellow fever occa-
sionally. The natives are subject to diseases of the eye and cataract.
The Indians very much dread the visitation of the European small-
pox, which comes about every seven or eight years, when it makes
very great havoc. They have also mal del bicho, or, as called by them,
sickness of the valleys. Tabardillo, or spotted fever, they have also,
and cure in a very rough manner. Of late, hooping-cough or Tos de
perro, dog's-cough, and measles of a bad sort, imported I conceive,
have afflicted the Indians in this region, as well as in the north of
Indians of the mountains in going to the coast catch tercianas, or
intermittent fevers ; those of the coast who go to the high lands,
suffer from cold and get inflammation of the lungs.
Vclasco, in his Hisloria de Quito (iii, 66), alludes to the epidemics
or pestes. There was one that visited nearly the whole of South
Cclxvi JOURNAL OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL 80CIETY.
America about the end of 1589. It commenced at Carthagena, tra-
velling south to Quito ; in the capital 30,000 died out of 80,000. It
is of this that Helps (Spanish Conq. in America, iv, p. 84) adverts to
and quotes Lozano, His. of Paraguay. The epidemic was first noticed
in Carthagena in 1588, and it passed over all South America to the
Straits of Magellan. It was much more fatal to the natives than the
Spaniards. The Indian children were so struck down by the epidemic
that not one out of a hundred escaped with life. The Indians offered
no mental resistance to the ravages of this disease, which seems to
have resembled the diphtheria of modern times. In Lozano's
words : " Cerrabanseles las fauces de manera, que ni daban passo
de lo interior al aliento, feneciendo la miserable vida entre las con-
gojas del ahogo." Their throats became closed up, and in such a
manner that no sustenance could pass, thus ending their miserable
lives in the horrors of choking.
In 1645 Quito was visited by another peste called alformbrilla (St.
Anthony's fire ?) and garotilla (quinsey) : 11,000 died of it in the
city of Quito. Again, in 1759, there was another; of this Velasco,
the historian, suffered. It was a sudden and violent fever, and severe
head-ache, with the paleness of death, and great prostration; about one
in a thousand of the Spaniards died of those who could obtain medical
assistance, but 10,000 of the Indians who lived in the city perished.
There was a fourth in 1785, a complication of diseases, including small-
pox ; in five months from 20 to 25,000 died of it in the city of Quito
and it3 vicinity.
In 1560 Potosi was visited by a peste, many dying after only
twenty-four hours illness. It appeared again the following year. In
1684 there were great droughts and a deadly plague in Peru. Ulloa
ii, p. 91 94, Voyages to South America, has some curious observ-
ations on the " distempers " of Lima, which cannot in any way be
congenial to health or the maintenance of a vigorous population even
of the whites, to say nothing of some of the mixed breeds. The dis-
tempers most common to Lima are malignant, intermittent, and ca-
tarrhous fevers, pleurisies and constipations ; and these rage continu-
ally in the city. The visitation of the small-pox in Quito as well as
here is not annual, though when it prevails great numbers are swept off.
Convulsions are common (unknown in Quito, but known in Cartha-
gena) of the partial, malignant and arched, of which he gives a fear-
ful account. Cancer in the womb is most common, most painful,
very contagious, and almost incurable. Slow or hectic fevers are com-
mon in this country and likewise contagious.
Chile. — This is probably one of the best climates in America.
However, the capital, situated at 1540 feet above the level of the sea,
and under the great Andes, would be called by us rather severe, for in
summer it is very hot during the day, and cold at night. It is subject
to a malady known there as chavalongo, which is a putrid typhus fever,
being very often fatal. It appears after the first autumnal rains and
is caused by miasma. Tisis, or calentura, is not uncommon; when
attacking the young it is called consumption, and older people, decline.
Brazil. — When I first visited the coast of this country in 1831 I
BOLLAERT ON THE INTRODUCTION OF STPHII.IS. cclxvii
foimd it very hot, not unhealthy, but with occasional bilious fevers.
However, some years afterwards yellow fever made its appearance,
supposed to have come from the West Indies, and has continued at
intervals. Cholera also visited Brazil.
The Guayanas and Venezuela have their share of intermittent,
bilious, and occasionally a little yellow fever.
Climate. — The reason why great groups of humanity, as the whites,
blacks, orientals, and red men of the New World enjoy general good
health in their own country, is that each group has its own climate,
and that their organisation is peculiarly fitted for the satisfactory assi-
milation of the air they breathe, the food they eat, and other personal
arrangements. However, when the white man goes to the country of
the black or oriental, he soon discovers they are not congenial to him,
to say nothing of the local diseases new and ofttimes fatal to him.
Take the negro from his tropical lands to high northern or southern
latitudes, he declines and dies before his time. Take the red man
away from America, he soon pines, particularly in the climate of
Europe ; he is prone to European diseases, as small-pox, measles,
hooping-cough, etc. ; he might do better in Polynesia and India on
the score of climate, but he must have no laborious occupation.
Then what is the conclusion we are to arrive at ? Namely, that each
great section of mankind thrives only in their own particular climate ;
take them to another and the result is unsatisfactory.
Idiocy among Indians. — I do not recollect having ever seen or
heard of idiocy or insanity among the Indians, either in North or
South America. There is, on the other hand, idiocy among the white
descendants of the conquerors, and in some cities more than others,
insanity is observed.
Mr. Reddie stated in his paper to this Society on Anthropological
Desiderata, read in February last, that idiocy was unknown among
the negroes of Africa.
The President, in proposing the thanks of the meeting to Mr.
Bollaert, observed that the subject of the paper was one of great im-
portance. It was Mr. Bollaert's opinion that there was no trustworthy
evidence to prove that syphilis had been introduced into Europe from
the New World. For his own part, he was not satisfied with the evi-
dence brought forward, and he thought that further evidence ought to
be sought for and adduced, not only with regard to the introduction
of syphilis but to some other contagious diseases. The question was
not to be settled by the authorities of ancient writers, but he conceived
that much light might be thrown on it by archaeological discoveries.
In no ancient skull that he was aware of had there been found any
trace of syphilis, but it was easily discoverable in many modern skulls,
the bone of the skull or the teeth being more or less affected by the
disease. The question appeared to be in a very unsatisfactory state.
They could form no judgment respecting it from the statements of old
authors that had been brought forward, and he thought they must
leave the matter to be elucidated by further discovery. They might,
perhaps, arrive at some satisfactory result by the examination of an-
Cclxviii JOURNAL OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
cient skulls, for if marks of the disease could be found on skulls of
persons who died before the discovery of America, such evidence
would be conclusive. In the examination of most modern skulls of
soldiers it had been ascertained that there was scarcely one skull of
men who died in the army that was not affected by syphilis, and some
were in a frightful state. Even some of the beautifully white prepared
skulls on the table, which had been presented to the Society by Pro-
fessor Hyrtl, showed marks of the disease. The President inquired
whether any member then present knew of any ancient skull that
had indications of syphilis.
Mr. Caster Blake stated that about two years ago a skull was
submitted to him, which was absurdly alleged to be the skull of
Richard III, but it proved to be the skull of a female, and exhibited
symptoms of having been affected with syphilis. The skull was said
to have been associated with bones of the extinct Bos primigenius, but
that sort of evidence was of a very doubtful kind. That was the only
skull of reputed antiquity in which he had observed traces of syphilis.
Mr. St. Clair observed, in reference to the contradictory state-
ments of the origin of the disease — Europeans and Americans reci-
procally asserting that it was derived from the other — that it might
probably have sprung from the mixture of people very dissimilar to
each other. If that were so, the contradictory evidence mentioned
in the paper might be reconciled ; otherwise it seemed impossible to
understand how those contradictory reports could have arisen.
Mr. Pike said there was one hypothesis of the origin of the dis-
ease which had not been suggested. It was well known that the
alchemists of the middle ages introduced mercurial remedies in medical
practice as cures for many diseases. Basil Valentine was one of those
who had introduced such remedies. It seemed very possible, there-
fore, that the severe symptoms of syphilis which became known about
the period of the discovery of the New World might have resulted
from the application of those strong remedies. Persons afflicted with
the disease aggravated by that mode of treatment, might attribute it
to importation from America ; the disease being in fact generated by
uncleanly habits and by the use of mercury combined. Typhus was
said to have been generated in a similar manner, and to have been
afterwards communicated ; and he thought that syphilis might have
originated and been communicated in the same way.
Dr. Turle thought that few medical men would adopt the idea
that the application of mercury could have been the cause of syphilis.
There could be no doubt, indeed, that mercury greatly aggravated the
symptoms, but it could not have produced them. There was unques-
tionably a greater preponderance of the disease in modern times than
in former periods, which would to some degree countenance the opinion
that it had been introduced from America ; but he thought it could
scarcely be doubted that it existed in Europe before the discovery of
the New World.
Sir Charles Nicholson noticed the supposed traditions among
the Indians which it was conceived indicated the existence of the
disease among them. As regarded the Mexicans, it might be observed
BOLLAERT ON THE INTRODUCTION OF SYPHILIS. Cclxix
that as they possessed no written language, no importance could be
attached to any such statement respecting them. It was asserted that
theypractised phallic worship, and that thatworship was connected with
the disease of syphilis. He was not aware, however, that there was any
evidence to prove the existence of phallic worship among the Indians
of South America. One argument in support of the opinion that the
disease first assumed a specific character at the end of the 15th cen-
tury was, that no indication of it was to be found in the literature of
the East, which it might be assumed would have been the case had
the disease been known. The phallic worship among the Hindoos was
not of the sensual character commonly supposed. It was connected
with profound philosophy, and really meant nothing sensual, but was
symbolic of the great generative powers of Nature. He thought that
if syphilis had existed among the Hindoos it would have been sym-
bolised in their works, which gave minute particulars of every sub-
ject. So far as he was aware, there was no description in their writ-
ings before the period of the discovery of America, to indicate clearly
any knowledge of the disease. With respect to Australia, he said, it
had made frightful havoc in that country, and the rapid disappearance of
the native inhabitants had been attributed partly to that cause. With
regard, however, to the extinctiou of aboriginal races, he observed that
there was another cause in operation which tended more effectually
to produce that effect. The women were generally less numerous
than the men ; that was particularly the case among all the islands of
the South Pacific, and in all parts of the world so circumstanced the
original races were dying out and would soon become extinct. The
real cause of it is, that where there is a great disparity of the sexes,
and the women are much less numerous than the men, virtual prosti-
tution exists, and the consequences are unfertility and extinction of
Mr. Witt said he could not perceive much connection between
phallic worship and syphilis ; but the existence of that worship in
South America and in Central America he thought was proved by Count
de Walder, who gave details of its practice there and representations
of phallic images.
M. Bollaert mentioned that there is a disease peculiar to Quito,
and that idiotcy is not known among the aboriginal races of North or
of South America.
Mr. Reddie inquired what evidence there was of the non-existence
of idiotcy among the Indians of America. If that were proved to be
the case, he thought it possible that the absence of idiots might
be accounted for by supposing that the infants were destroyed when
idiotic. That was the practice among the Greeks, or at least, was
recommended by them. The facts on the subject were very
Mr. Bollaert stated, in reply, that he was not aware that the In-
dians destroyed any of their children.
Dr. Turle asked whether any true case of plague had been known
in South America.
Mr. Bollaert said he thought not.